Thursday, February 4, 2010

Games vs. Books... Part Deux

Yesterday I touched on the thoughts of what was more engaging, video games or books. To each, there are both positive and a negative points, so many of which that I could truly never cover in my humble little ramblings. In point form, here is what I mentioned yesterday:

- Using your imagination more
- form a greater bond with the characters
- The environment is limited only by imagination

- Carries you visually farther than any book could, which in some case can be inspirational
- YOU control what happens, you are not just following what someone has written

As with anything, a lot of this depends on the book or game you play. Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed 2, Final Fantasy... these all tend to lean towards giving a play the freedom to do as they like while still steering them on the eventual goal of completing the game. A grand example of where a game elevates itself beyond is in Final Fantasy 7. Aeris is a lovable, feel good character and the game steers you, as the main character Cloud, into an almost romantic relationship. You develop the relationship based on little things you do from time to time. About half way through the game, she is killed dramatically by the main villain of the game, and a scene of true heartbreak follows as you must now let her go and continue the world saving quest you were on. When you play this, you feel the true heartbreak and heart ache of the main character. It is easily one of the most developed and engaging character sequences I've ever experienced, in book or game. If you play Mario, Donkey Kong, any fighting game, etc. require nothing but a knee jerk response to get you from point a to point b, thus truly not being as free and open and imaginative as the previously mentioned. I used to be a big Mortal Kombat player, and I couldn't remember every detail of playing, but I could tell you the button combo for the Scorpion flame head fatality. It's like I zone out when I play that. Less engaged, more autonomic.

Same with a book. Think of a book that you've read that was great. For me, let's say... Vampire of the Mists by Christie Golden. While certainly not literary genius (what vampire book beyond Dracula is?) I was very engaged with the main characters, Strahd, Jander Sunstar. I remember the specific scene in the end as Jander watched the sun come up one last time and died. A very touching scene indeed. I haven't read that book in 10 years. Then I think of some rambling crap book I may have read, like Batman: The Stone King by Alan Grant. I remember that I read the book, I remember Batman was in it. But beyond that, nothing. I read that book 3 months ago.

The point, in the end, that I wish to make is more of a plea for the validity of gaming in general. We're not talking sales dollars. We're talking the level of engagement and the validity of said engagement. There are some that think gaming is just a weak pass time that is really nothing. I personally carry experiences, joy and not, from games to this day and will all my life. How is this not engaging?


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